Paul George gets nifty endorsement from OKC deserter

    When Paul George, left, asked around about OKC, he got a ringing endorsement from Thunder defector Kevin Durant. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
    BY LEE JENKINS

    SI.com

    July 11, 2017

    WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif. — The Conejo Valley lunch crowd was confronted by an alarming image Monday afternoon on the 3100 block of Willow Lane: Paul George lying face down on the floor of a 5,000-square-foot warehouse, garage doors open to the street, cursing under the weight of six 20-pound metal chains draped across his back. This is where George has spent the past three months, at ProActive Sports Performance in Westlake Village, pushing 800-pound monster-truck tires alongside linebackers such as the Packers’ Clay Matthews and running backs like the Bucs’ Doug Martin. On Road Trip Fridays, George and his new NFL pals charge up 35-degree inclines on 200-yard sand dunes north of Malibu.

    No one has figured more prominently in the NBA’s manic off-season than George—traded by the Pacers, rumored to the Cavs, ticketed to the Celtics, fated for the Lakers, acquired by the Thunder—yet no one has been less visible, training six days a week with Ryan Capretta at ProActive and recovering at his home in aptly named Hidden Hills. George will finally extricate himself from the chains, which he uses for resistance during pushups, and board a private plane Tuesday morning at Van Nuys Airport that was dispatched by Thunder owner Clay Bennett. He cannot fathom the outpouring that awaits him when he touches down in Oklahoma City. “I’ve heard there might be people, like, at the airport,” he says.

    George has no relationship with Russell Westbrook beyond pregame pleasantries. He describes Sam Presti as one might depict a character in a spy novel. All he has ever seen of his new home is the Skirvin Hilton Hotel and Chesapeake Energy Arena. But in the 11 days since George was sent from Indiana to Oklahoma City, he has done his research, asking former Thunder players what he can expect in one of the league’s smallest but staunchest markets. One notable source was particularly insightful.

    “KD was like, ‘That place will blow you away,’” George says. “He told me, ‘They can offer what other teams can’t in terms of the people and the preparation and the facility, down to the chefs and the meals.’ He was pretty high on them. He thought it was a first-class organization in every way.” The Thunder, who essentially traded Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis for a yearlong free-agent pitch session with George, will take any recruiter they can get—even if it’s the guy who left, sweet-talking his replacement.

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    MARK HAYES: No hiding his Hall-of-Fame success

    Mark Hayes won a 10-year tour exemption for his victory at the 1977 Tournament Players' Championship. (PGA Tour images)
    BY JOHN ROHDE

    Golf Oklahoma Magazine Contributor

    June 22, 2017

    After hiding himself underneath the familiar Amana “bucket” hat that became his signature, Mark Hayes no longer can avoid the acknowledgement he richly deserves.

    One of the greatest junior players in state history, who went on to notable collegiate, amateur, and the PGA Tour accomplishments, Hayes will become a member of the 2017 Oklahoma Golf Hall of Fame during the Oct. 1 induction ceremony at Oklahoma City Golf & Country Club.

    Hayes came from an athletic lineage. His father, Larry Sr., was a gifted athlete and played for Hall of Fame basketball coach Henry P. Iba at Oklahoma A&M (1945-46; 1947-49). Larry was a member of the 1946 NCAA championship team and the national runner-up team in 1949, which is the same year Mark was born.

    Larry taught all four of his sons – Larry Jr., Mark, Jim and Dan – how to play golf. Mark and Larry Jr. started at age 6 and 7, respectively. Hayes’ parents were both educators who received their doctorates from OSU so the family moved between Stillwater and Oklahoma City. In Stillwater, Mark started competing in tournaments against older kids at age 10. He remained unbeaten until age 12 when he finally experienced defeat, though only occasionally.

    For the better part of a decade, Hayes essentially served as the measuring stick for other in-state junior golfers.

    It was about age 12 when Hayes came under the tutelage of Oklahoma State golf coach and 2016 HOF inductee Labron Harris Sr. Around this same time, Hayes convinced another 12-year-old from Stillwater to take up golf. That kid was Doug Tewell, a fellow 2017 Oklahoma Golf HOF inductee who was born just 47 days after Hayes arrived on July 12, 1949. Hayes and Tewell quickly became lifelong friends/rivals.

    Tewell said he measured himself as a golfer by how well he fared against Hayes. “I think playing against Mark meant everything for my career,” Tewell said with sincerity. “We all need somebody like that who we chase, so to speak. It’s kind of like two quarterbacks – the starter and the guy who wants to start. Mark set the bar. He was so much better than the rest of us. I wanted to beat him worse than anybody, yet we were friends. I’m not sure we really knew we were rivals.”

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    DOUG TEWELL: Finds his sport, then finds the Hall of Fame

    BY JOHN ROHDE

    Golf Oklahoma Magazine Contributor

    June 21, 2017

    Doug Tewell freely admits “golf just wasn’t on my radar” when he was 12 years old. He was far too busy playing football, baseball and basketball in his hometown of Stillwater in those days.

    Tewell played center in football, was a first baseman in baseball and a “benchwarmer” in basketball. “I thought my future might be in baseball,” Tewell said. “I could hit.”

    However, Tewell’s athletic journey took an entirely new path when he suffered a concussion at age 12 while playing football on Lewis Field. “My parents said, ‘That’s it for you. No more football,’ ” Tewell said. “Dad said, ‘You ought to start playing golf with me.’ I said, ‘Well, I’ll try it and see.’ It was hard to quit all those other sports because in those days there was a lot of peer pressure to play football, basketball and baseball. Here I was joining the minor sports brigade.”

    Tewell wasn’t a complete stranger to golf, having already served as his father’s caddie. Turns out Tewell also could swing the clubs rather than just carry them. He played the game well, and it didn’t take long to discover this. “I got pretty good at it quickly because on my 13th birthday I went and played my first ever golf tournament in Okmulgee,” Tewell recalled. “I tied for second with a guy named Mark Hayes. I won the playoff.”

    Born in Baton Rouge, La., Tewell moved to Stillwater at age 11. While Tewell dove head-first into mainstream sports, Hayes began playing golf at age 6 and had become somewhat of a prodigy by the time he was 12, frequently beating older players.

    A fellow member of the 2017 Oklahoma Golf Hall of Fame class, Hayes was born roughly seven weeks before Tewell in the summer of 1949. They were in the same class while attending school, and they’ll be in the same class as HOF inductees on Oct. 1 at Oklahoma City Golf & Country Club.

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    Those closest to Bob Stoops share their keen insight

    BY JOHN ROHDE

    SoonerSports.com Contributor

    June 12, 2017

    Five days have passed since Oklahoma football coach Bob Stoops announced his sudden retirement at age 56. Even those closest to him were stunned when Stoops shared the news last Wednesday.

    Sooners associate head coach/defensive coordinator Mike Stoops is 15 months younger than his older brother. They grew up in a close-knit family in Youngstown, Ohio, were teammates throughout their playing days in school, coached alongside each other as assistants at Kansas State and Mike spent 10 seasons at OU as an assistant under big brother.

    A bit of shock lingers even for Mike.

    "It still feels a little strange, but it's all good and time for a new beginning," Mike said Sunday evening. "When you really think about it, why not (retire)? Bob's not about money. He's not about records or anything like that. He's just about doing his job and being happy."

    The day after his announcement, Bob Stoops and longtime friend Matt McMillen headed to a Florida beach. McMillen is OU's assistant athletics director for football operations and arrived alongside Stoops in 1999. They've been friends since 1989 working at K-State. McMillen was having dinner at Stoops' home last Tuesday night when he got blindsided.

    "We were outside and Bob says, 'Matty, I'm not going to coach anymore,'" McMillen explained. "I don't think I said a word for 20-25 minutes. He started laughing at me. It was like somebody hit me on the head with a sledgehammer, or an anvil fell on my head, or something. I didn't know what to say. It was crazy."

    Early in the morning on the day of the announcement, Stoops called assistant head coach Cale Gundy into his office. Gundy, who serves as director of recruiting and coaches inside receivers, has been with the OU football program for 23-plus seasons. He played quarterback for the Sooners (1990-93), served one year as a student assistant and returned to OU when Stoops became head coach 18 years ago.

    "Bob told me what was going on," Gundy said. "It was kind of tough for him to tell me and it was tough for me to hear it. We have been around each other for so long and it's something I'll remember forever."

    A mid-afternoon meeting was scheduled last Wednesday to inform OU players of Stoops' retirement. When word leaked, the meeting was bumped up to early afternoon. Before meeting alongside his teammates, however, senior quarterback and Heisman Trophy finalist Baker Mayfield was summoned into a meeting with Stoops and new head coach Lincoln Riley.

    “By then, everybody kind of knew what was happening,” Mayfield said. “I was shocked at first, just hearing it come out of Coach Stoops' mouth. I also was taken aback that he respected me enough to call me in there and tell me in person before meeting with the team.”

    Former Sooners coach Barry Switzer said Stoops gave him a tour of the new facilities three days before the announcement and Stoops never hinted of his pending retirement. The day after the announcement, Stoops telephoned Switzer.

    "Bob said, 'The timing was right,'" Switzer said. "And I said, 'Well, you're the only one who keeps that watch. No one else keeps that watch except you. It's your clock and you set the time. I'm all for it. I can understand.'"

    Defensive tackle Tommie Harris was a two-time, first-team All-American with the Sooners in 2002-03, won the 2003 Vince Lombardi Award, declared for the 2004 NFL Draft after his junior season and was selected 14th overall in the first round by the Chicago Bears.

    "I was shocked," Harris said of Stoops retiring, "but then at the same time, I was more excited for him. It showed his courage to leave at the top of your game. He can do whatever he wants with his time now."

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    Green called Durant from parking lot after Game 7

    Draymond Green might have sealed Kevin Durant going to the Warriors with a cell phone call from the parking lot. (AP photo/Rick Bowmer)
    BY ZACH LOWE

    ESPN Senior Writer

    June 8, 2017

    Draymond Green sat along the sidelines this week at Quicken Loans Arena and pointed his right index finger at the spot where it happened -- where everything about the 2016 NBA Finals, and maybe about the next decade of NBA history, changed in a blur of angry limbs.

    "That play?" Green said in a chat with ESPN.com, his voice rising. "I don't regret it. Like, I just don't. Some would say maybe I'm wrong for not regretting it. I don't live my life with regrets. I move on. It was never like, 'Oh man, I cost these guys a championship. Now, do I believe in my heart that I did cost us? Yeah, I do. Absolutely. But I still don't regret that play."

    That play, of course, was Green swiping at LeBron James' groin as the world's best player stepped over him in an act Green and his team viewed as an intentional, emasculating taunt. The resulting flagrant foul mandated Green be suspended from Game 5 in Oakland. The Warriors were up 3-1 in the best-of-seven series. They never won again.

    It is an act with almost no parallel in sports history -- a flash of anger that upended a series on the precipice. To a man, the Warriors are sure they would have clinched the title in Game 5 at home had Green been available. Whether they are right is impossible to know, and not all that important. That they believe it is what matters. If they believe that, then they also believe Green's temper -- his accumulation of needless and violent on-court incidents -- cost them a once-in-a-lifetime chance to repeat as champions in a record-setting 73-win season.

    That belief could tear a team apart. It would be natural for teammates to harbor bitterness toward Green. More trivial disputes ripped fissures in other teams that never healed. Green apologized, and the Warriors got past it, quickly. There were no further team meetings. Green did not have to pull any teammate aside and hash things out, he said. They rallied around Green, and accepted his mistake. Their bond grew stronger. Green learned to tread the line, and the Warriors are about to assume the throne again.

    It did not have to be that way.

    "Initially, we were upset," Shaun Livingston told ESPN.com. "Especially during that moment when we didn't know if he would be suspended. It was like, 'Come on, man. You have to be smarter.'"

    The ruling from the league office galvanized them, as did rumblings -- accurate, per sources -- that the Cavaliers lobbied for a two-game suspension. "I think there was empathy for him," Bob Myers, the team's GM, told ESPN.com this week. "The worst thing, the most painful thing you can do to a player, is take him out of a game."

    The Warriors list compassion as one of their core values, and they used it to digest what Green had done. "Draymond does so much for us," Bruce Fraser, an assistant coach, told ESPN.com. "You have to live with some of the emotional things he does that hurt you. He was remorseful. He spoke on it. And we have a compassionate group."

    "He apologized," Steve Kerr, the team's head coach, told ESPN.com. "S--- happens. I never had any doubt the players would get over it."

    Losing Games 6 and 7 helped. They had two more chances, with Green. They lost -- with Green. "I can see people thinking he cost us a championship, but it's not true," Livingston said. "We lost those games."

    Owning their collective defeat shifted the focus away from any individual act. "It helped that we credited our opponents," Myers said. "In every arena now, people yell the '3-1 lead' stuff at us, and our response is: 'They beat us. They earned it.' And that is the healthiest response."

    Did Green's performance in Game 7 -- 32 points on 11-of-15 shooting, 15 rebounds, 9 assists -- quash any lingering resentment?

    "Hell yeah," Kerr said.

    Everyone understands Green's foundational importance to the team's identity -- to the very shape they form on the court. There is no impenetrable switching defense without Green, no revolutionary Death Lineup. "We couldn't play the way we do without him," said Ron Adams, the team's defensive guru.

    The core players had no choice but to forgive and forget; most of them were under contract for the next season and beyond, and Green wasn't going anywhere. "What are you going to do, trade Draymond because you can't get over it?" Kerr asked. "You have two choices: accept what he does, and that it comes with the occasional outburst, or trade him for a player who isn't as competitive -- a player who won't get kicked out of a game, but also won't get you to Game 7 of the Finals."

    Myers was still curious. He held private exit meetings with every player, and he used them in part to see if there was any simmering discontent about the suspension.

    "Given human nature, I thought there might be," Myers said. "There wasn't."

    "It was important to answer that question for our franchise going forward," Myers told ESPN.com on a podcast in March. "And nobody blamed anyone for anything. How do you get over 3-1? That day got me over it. You can lose with the right people. It makes it tolerable, as much as it sucks to lose. You look around and say, 'You know what? I'll go back and fight this fight with you guys.'"

    Green has also gotten better at controlling his temper. He has only two technicals so far in the playoffs -- and zero flagrants. "We don't want to take that emotion away from him," Klay Thompson told ESPN.com "That is what makes him so great -- that dog in him. He has just learned to harness it."

    As nice as this all sounds, even Green recognizes things could have turned out differently had Kevin Durant chosen another team. With four stars, including two of the five best players in the league, the Warriors are guaranteed a realistic shot at the title every season. There would be other chances; Green did not blow their last one.

    "I look at it as we lost the Finals, but we ended up with KD," Green said. "That's a helluva consolation prize."

    Green was already working on that as he left Oracle Arena after that gutting Game 7 loss. Green sat in his car in the parking lot and called Myers, telling him he had to sign Durant. "It's on you," Green told Myers.

    Green hung up, stayed in the parking lot, and made another call -- to Durant. "That was my very next call," Green said. Two weeks later, Durant signed a maximum contract that put him in a Golden State uniform for at least one season, with several more seasons likely to come.

    "If we win the championship, I'm like 99 percent sure we don't get him," Green said. "There are silver linings to everything."

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    What do the Brad Dalke critics have to say now?

    Oklahoma sophomore Brad Dalke won the title-clinching match of the NCAA Golf Championships against Oregon. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
    BY KEVIN CASEY
    Golfweek

    June 1, 2017

    SUGAR GROVE, Ill. – For Brad Dalke, this was a really long time coming.

    Dalke made national headlines seven years ago when he committed to Oklahoma at 12 years old. The news was a lightning bolt for criticism: How could parents pressure a kid like this?

    Local sports talk radio had a field day on the commitment.

    “Wonder if his coach knows about it!”

    “I’m going to declare my unborn son is going to go to Notre Dame!”

    Even the compliments could be off-putting. Kay Dalke, Brad’s mother and a teacher at the time, had students going into Division I athletics. They praised her for her apparent pragmatism.

    “They said, ‘Hey, that’s great strategy on your part, Mrs. Dalke. Now he can hold out for a better offer,’ ” Kay Dalke said.

    That was never the plan – the early decision was Brad’s idea and he saw it as a true commitment – and the peanut gallery had its say. How’d that go?

    Seven years later, that 12-year-old commit closed out a national title for the Sooners. Dalke’s 2-and-1 win over Oregon’s Sulman Raza earned Oklahoma its third point of its NCAA Championship final match against Oregon, giving the Sooners their first national title since 1989.

    Take that, haters.

    “We proved them wrong this week,” Dalke said.

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    Oklahoma softball maintains its championship mindset

    BY JOHN ROHDE

    SoonerSports.com Contributor

    June 1, 2017

    Featuring a roster with eight freshmen and four sophomores, the 2016 Oklahoma softball team won the NCAA championship much earlier than anticipated. With an apparent dynasty looming, the 2017 Sooners became just the fourth team in the 23-year history of the NFCA poll to ever be selected as a unanimous preseason No. 1.

    Oddly enough, this year's OU team is even younger overall than last year's champs. The 2016 Sooners had five seniors, but this year's squad has only one in utility fielder Macey Hatfield, who is joined by six juniors, six sophomores and five freshmen.

    With softball being among the most superstitious of all sports, team members understandably hoped to re-trace their steps to a second straight national championship.

    En route to winning last year's title, the Sooners wore crimson-colored rubber bracelets emblazoned with capital white letters “CHAMPIONSHIP MINDSET.” This year's players looked forward to wearing that same lucky charm while defending the crown.

    OU Hall of Fame coach Patty Gasso initially banned the bracelet, however. The woman respectfully dubbed “Three Natty Patty” for her three national crowns (2000, 2013, 2016) also took away another cherished piece of equipment when she didn't permit her players to wear their white cleats.

    In Gasso's eyes, her team didn't deserve such comforts because of their early season struggles.

    “I said, ‘We're going to keep working until we figure this out,' ” Gasso explained. “And they wanted those bracelets desperately, so it kind of forced them to let go of some of the stuff they were hanging onto. The whole ‘defend the title' thing kind of got in the way a little bit.”

    As is her way, Gasso once again had lined up a formidable early schedule. Even though five of OU's nine losses this season have come against teams in this week's Women's College World Series (Washington and Baylor) and last weekend's Super Regionals (Arizona, Tennessee and Auburn), Gasso didn't like what she was seeing from her potential powerhouse.

    “Honestly, it did surprise me some,” Gasso said of the slow start, “but then I started to see what our returners were trying to do. They were trying to match their numbers from the year before, do those kind of things, and that doesn't work.”

    Last year's championship run is eerily similar to what has transpired so far this season.

    The 2016 Sooners began with a 2-2 record through four games and were 9-4 through 13 games. Those are the exact same marks as this year's team.

    The 2016 Sooners started out 25-7 and fell to No. 14 after losing at home to Kansas in what would be their lone loss in a 17-1 Big 12 season. The 2017 Sooners started out 23-7, slipped to No. 13 in the polls also finished with a 17-1 conference mark.

    And, just like last season, OU finished with a flourish to qualify for its sixth WCWS appearance in the last seven years and its 11th trip overall.

    The 2016 Sooners entered the World Series riding a 27-game winning streak and had won 34 of their last 35. The 2017 Sooners enter this week's WCWS having won 33 of their last 35.

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    Three state schools advance to NCAA baseball tournament

    NCAA.com

    May 30, 2017

    INDIANAPOLIS – Three schools from the state of Oklahoma -- Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Oral Roberts -- are among those who will compete in the 64-team field for the 2017 NCAA Division I baseball championship.

    No. 2-seeded Oklahoma (34-22) will compete in the Louisville (Ky.) Regional while No. 3-seeded Oklahoma State (30-25) and No. 4-seeded Oral Roberts (42-14) are in the Fayetteville (Ark.) Regional.

    The national top eight seeds are Oregon State (49-4), North Carolina (47-12), Florida (42-16), LSU (43-17), Texas Tech (43-15), TCU (42-16), Louisville (47-10) and Stanford (40-14).

    TOURNAMENT BRACKET

    The Southeastern Conference (SEC) leads the way with eight teams selected. Both the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and Big 12 Conference have seven participants in the field. The Big Ten Conference ties a conference record with five, while the Pac-12 Conference has four in the field. The American Athletic Conference (AAC) has three and the Big East Conference, Big West Conference, Conference USA, Missouri Valley Conference and Southland Conference all have two teams each.

    Florida Gulf Coast and Davidson are each making their first appearances in the championship in 2017.  Holy Cross is in the tournament for the first time since 1978, while Yale earns its first bid since 1993 and West Virginia is in for the first time since 1996.

    Florida State now has the longest consecutive streak with its 40th straight appearance, with the Miami (Florida) streak of appearances ending at 44.  Other long consecutive streaks: Cal State Fullerton (26) and Rice (23).

    While 15 of the regional sites are scheduled to be played Friday through Monday, June 2-5, competition at the Stanford Regional will begin Thursday, June 1 and will conclude either Sunday or Monday, June 4 or 5. BYU, which won the automatic qualifier by capturing the West Coast Conference tournament championship, does not participate in any athletics competition on Sundays. Therefore, if the Cougars advance to the regional final, that game will take place June 5; otherwise that regional championship game is scheduled for Sunday, June 4.

    Selection of the eight super regional hosts will be announced on www.NCAA.com/cws, Tuesday, June 6 at approximately 8 a.m. (ET). The 71st Men’s College World Series begins play Saturday, June 17, at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha in Omaha, Nebraska.

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    OU advances to NCAA men's golf championship final

    OU Athletics Communications

    May 30, 2017

    SUGAR GROVE, Ill. -- The Oklahoma men's golf team will face defending champion Oregon on Wednesday afternoon in the NCAA men's golf championship match at Rich Harvest Farms Final.

    OU advanced by winning two matches on Tuesday, rolling past host Illinois 3-1-1 in the semifinal match after posting a 3-2 comeback victory over Baylor in the morning quarterfinals.

    The final matches will begin at 2:10 p.m. CT. The Golf Channel will televise the NCAA championship match live from 3-7 p.m. CT and live scoring also will be available on GolfStat.com.

    NCAA FINAL MATCH PAIRINGS

    1. Blaine Hale (OU) vs. Norman Xiong (ORE) - 2:10 p.m. CT
    2. Max McGreevy (OU) vs. Edwin Yi (ORE) - 2:20 p.m. CT
    3. Rylee Reinertson (OU) vs. Wyndham Clark (ORE) - 2:30 p.m. CT
    4. Grant Hirschman (OU) vs. Ryan Gronlund (ORE) - 2:40 p.m. CT
    5. Brad Dalke (OU) vs. Sulman Raza (ORE) - 2:50 p.m. CT

    This marks the first time in school history the Sooners will play for the national title in the match-play format, which made its debut in 2009. OU is looking to win its second NCAA title in program history, having previously won the 1989 championship at Oak Tree Country Club under the stroke-play format.

    "What a great day for Oklahoma golf," eighth-year head coach Ryan Hybl said after Tuesday's sweep. "I can't put into words what this opportunity means for us, and our guys have earned it all this week. We have one more to knock down tomorrow, and our guys will be ready."

    The Sooners qualified as the No. 2 seed overall for match play after placing second in the 72-hole stroke-play qualifier. Oregon is the No. 5 seed and advanced to the championship match with a 3-2 semifinal victory over No. 1-seeded Vanderbilt, which won the stroke-play qualifier by 12 shots. Oregon began match play by beating No. 4-seeded Oklahoma State 3-2 in the quarterfinals.

    Sophomore Blaine Hale got OU on the board first in the semifinal with a 4 and 3 win over Illinois' Edoardo Lipparelli. Hale struck early with a win on hole No. 1, and although the golfers went back and forth on the front nine, Hale never trailed in the match. Wins on hole Nos. 10 and No. 14 put Hale 4-up and he halved the 15th hole to claim the victory.

    Senior Max McGreevy posted the Sooners' next win, defeating Giovanni Tadiott 2 and 1. McGreevy also won the first hole and maintained the lead over Tadiotto throughout the round. The senior clinched a win on the challenging 17th hole.

    Junior Rylee Reinertson's 3 and 1 victory over Michael Feagles clinched the OU win over the Fighting Illini.

    Junior Grant Hirschman halved his match with Illinois' Nick Hardy. The duo was all-square when the match was suspended after Reinertson's win. Sophomore Brad Dalke was 1-down to Dylan Meyer.

    In the quarterfinal match, OU rallied on the back nine to defeat Baylor.

    Down 2-0 with three matches left on the course, Reinertson and Hirschman came through with a pair of 1-up victories to tie the match. Dalke sealed the comeback win by defeating Baylor's Matthew Perrine 1-up in 19 holes.

    At the one point during the quarterfinals, OU trailed in all five matches. Reinertson worked his way back from 3-down through eight holes; Reinertson grabbed the lead with a birdie on No. 17; Hirschman, who was 3-down at the turn, sunk an eagle putt on No. 18 to win 1-up and tie the team match at 2.

    Dalke battled back and forth with Perrine, who forced a playoff after chipping in from the fringe on No. 18. Dalke won the first playoff hole by burying a 6-foot putt.

     

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    Questions loom on timing of PGA events at Southern Hills

    BY KEN MACLEOD

    Golf Oklahoma Magazine

    May 30, 2017

    The announcement that the PGA of America will bring both the 2021 KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship and the PGA Championship between 2025 and 2030 to Southern Hills Country Club is obviously terrific news for the club, the City of Tulsa and the state of Oklahoma.

    The announcement reflects years of work and lobbying by Southern Hills General Manager Nick Sidorakis with the support of the Southern Hills Board of Directors. It will be the fifth PGA Championship held at the historic club and the eighth major championship overall.

    While the 2017 Senior PGA Championship concluded Sunday with Bernhard Langer prevailing, there is no guarantee that the 2021 event will be held in May. That is just one of the looming questions over both events that PGA officials were unable to answer Tuesday with any clarity due to the proposed restructuring of the golf calendar currently being discussed by the PGA Tour, PGA of America and the R&A.

    The proposal still under discussion calls for the Players Championship to return to March, the Fed-Ex Cup playoffs to be shortened by one event and conclude in August and the PGA Championship to move to a May date. If that occurs, most expect the PGA of America would then swap the dates with the PGA Championship and the Senior PGA Championship, meaning the PGA Championship would be at Southern Hills in May and the Senior PGA Championship in August or perhaps July.

    As for when specifically the PGA Championship will be held, it was a bit murky as to why a specific date was not announced Tuesday. Kerry Haigh, the chief championships officer of the PGA of America, said it was to give Southern Hills ample time between events. Southern Hills officials were hopeful and somewhat confident that the date announced will be closer to 2025 than 2030.

    Sidorakis, 58 and a 22-year veteran of the club, said he would obviously prefer the date be sooner than later and pointed out that though the members sacrifice in giving up the course for a period every time a major event is held, that Southern Hills did host the 1994 PGA Championship and 1995 and 1996 Tour Championships in successive years. There were six years between the 2001 U.S. Open and the 2007 PGA Championship, and then two years from that event to the 2009 U.S. Amateur Championship.

    “I don’t know what the ideal interval is,” Sidorakis said. “You’ve got to give the city time to sell tickets, us to sell corporate hospitality, etc. But we’ve done it on short notice before.”

    Major championships have grown in the interim in terms of space needed for corporate hospitality and communications and hosting the PGA Championship will be a much bigger financial and space commitment than it was even in 2007, when Tiger Woods prevailed at Southern Hills.

    Tuesday’s announcement also reflects the end for the time being of the club’s long pursuit of a fourth U.S. Open Championship. After the 2007 PGA Championship, the club had numerous talks with the USGA and believed that a successful hosting of the 2009 U.S. Amateur Championship would lead sooner rather than later to a U.S. Open commitment. As the USGA continued to add new sites such as Chambers Bay, Erin Hills and Los Angeles Country Club to its rotation of tried and true classics, it became apparent that the wait was going to be interminable and Sidorakis asked his board to begin pursuit of a fifth PGA Championship in earnest.

    “I’m very pleased,” Sidorakis said. “It’s a reflection of years of networking with the PGA. There were talks with the USGA, but the PGA came to us with an interest and the rest is history.”

    As for if the PGA of America will agree to move its championship to May, Haigh said it is under scrutiny.

    “There’s an awful lot of issues involved,” he said. “Certainly we’re in the process of analyzing all the pros and cons. We’re certainly very happy where we are in August. Certainly we know the Olympics will be having golf in August every four years. Historically we’ve played the PGA Championship in seven different months, so even though it has been in August the last 20 or 30 years, it wouldn’t be a historic change. We’re analyzing everything and no decision has been made.”

    Haigh said he had looked carefully at the course in recent days and saw no reason why it couldn’t host a PGA Championship in late May.

    Southern Hills had architect Gil Hanse perform a master plan several years back and the club is currently considering internally a series of renovations and improvements that, if approved, would be done long before either championship. Those include several new tee boxes, a bunker renovation and a greens renovation, among other facility improvements.

     

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    Never too late: Quentin Griffin finishes his quest for a diploma

    Former running back Quentin Griffin stands alongside OU athletic director Joe Castiglione at the student-athlete graduation banquet.

     

    BY JOHN ROHDE

    SoonerSports.com Contributor

    May 16, 2017

    When diminutive Oklahoma running back Quentin Griffin was selected in the fourth round of the 2003 NFL Draft, he left as the school's fourth-leading rusher with 3,938 career yards. Griffin only trailed two Heisman Trophy winners in Billy Sims (4,118) at No. 1 and Steve Owens (4,041) at No. 3, plus silver-shoed great Joe Washington (4,071) at No. 2.

    A chance to play in the NFL put Griffin's academic progress on hold. In his second season with the Denver Broncos, the 5-foot-7, 190-pound Griffin set a franchise record for most rushing yards in a season opener with a career-high 156 on 23 carries against the Kansas City Chiefs. A budding NFL career abruptly was cut short when Griffin tore the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his right knee in Week 7. He would never play another regular-season game again for the Broncos.

    In 2005, Griffin had dropped to No. 4 on Denver's depth chart and was released. He was brought back a few weeks later, then released again. In 2006, Griffin was signed by the Chiefs and later cut. In 2007, the Hamburg Sea Devils made Griffin the second overall pick in the NFL Europa Free Agent Draft. In 2008, he signed the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the CFL and was cut after the team's final preseason game. In July 2013, Griffin signed with the Kiel Baltic Hurricanes in Germany (GFL1).

    When Griffin's football odyssey finally came to an end, a daunting task awaited if he was going to finish what he started academically at OU.

    When he left the Sooners, Griffin was 33 credit hours short of earning his undergraduate degree. "My mother, she planted the seed (to graduate) and kept watering it," Griffin said with a smile. "It was in the back of my mind, but once I got it to the front of my mind, that's the push I needed."

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    Gregg Popovich rant on Zaza is an all-timer

    BY SCOTT DAVIS

    Business Insider

    May 15, 2017

    San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich ripped Golden State Warriors center Zaza Pachulia on Monday for a controversial foul that injured Kawhi Leonard in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals.

    During the third quarter, Pachulia closed out on a Leonard shot attempt and appeared to put his foot under Leonard after the shot.

    Leonard, whose injured ankle kept him out of Game 6 and part of Game 5 of the Spurs' second-round series against the Houston Rockets, landed on Pachulia's foot and had to leave the game. The Warriors went on an 18-0 run, erasing most of a 23-point Spurs lead. The Warriors won the game 113-111, outscoring the Spurs by 25 points without Leonard for most of the second half.

    While it was unclear whether Pachulia's foot placement was intentional, Popovich said it was "a totally unnatural close-out" and listed past incidents he considers dirty plays by Pachulia:

    "A two-step, lead-with-your-foot close-out is not appropriate. It's dangerous. It's unsportsmanlike. It's just not what anybody does to anybody else.

    "And this particular individual has a history with that kind of action. You can go back and look at Dallas games where he got a flagrant two for elbowing Patty Mills. The play where he took Kawhi down and locked his arm in Dallas and could have broken his arm. Ask David West, his current teammate, how things went when Zaza was playing for Dallas and he and David got into it.

    "And then think about the history he's had and what that means to a team, what happened last night: a totally unnatural closeout that the league has outlawed years ago and pays great attention to it."

    Popovich then angrily broke down how Leonard's injury could affect the Spurs' title chances:

    "You wanna know if that lessens our chances or not? We're playing very possibly the best team in the league. We don't know what's gonna happen in the East. And 9.75 people out of 10 would figure the Warriors would beat the Spurs.

    "Well, we've had a pretty damn good season. We've played fairly well in the playoffs. I think we're getting better. We're up 23 points in the third quarter against Golden State, and Kawhi goes down like that. And you wanna know if our chances are less? And you wanna know how we feel? That's how we feel."

    At the time of Popovich's media availability, Leonard was getting an MRI. Popovich said the Spurs expected Leonard to miss Game 2.

    As many people pointed out, Pachulia's so-called foot trick has been around the NBA for years. Former Spurs wing Bruce Bowen was perhaps the player most known to slide his foot under jump shooters, risking potential injury. The Spurs retired Bowen's number, leading some to say Popovich's rant was hypocritical.

    After Game 1, Leonard said he didn't think Pachulia was trying to intentionally hurt him. Pachulia also defended himself, saying big men often get called for many unintentional fouls.

    Popovich, however, brushed that aside.

    "I don't give a damn about intent," he said. "You still go to jail for manslaughter."

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    Why Oregon State (41-4) is dominating college baseball

    Oregon State has a 24-3 record against Pac-12 teams and is 10-0 against teams in the Top 50 of the current RPI.
    BY MIKE LOPRESTI

    NCAA.com

    May 15, 2017

    Start with the 41-4 record. Doesn’t that tell us all we need to know about the No. 1 ranked Oregon State team that is so clearly at the top of the baseball heap as the NCAA Tournament nears?

    Well, no. Lots of other things to mention, if we are to be up to date in our Beaver-ology. Here are 19 of them:

    1. Oregon State is 10-0 against teams in the top 50 of the current RPI.

    2. Junior Luke Heimlich leads the nation in earned run average with a nice, tidy 0.76. Actually, he should be a sophomore. He graduated from high school a year early and took the fast lane to Corvallis, Oregon.

    3. Heimlich and fellow pitcher Jake Thompson have combined to start 26 games. They have allowed 19 earned runs between them, and 109 hits. Plus 19 wins and one loss.

    4. Thompson has an earned run average of 1.11, third in the nation as of Monday, and a lot lower than his 3.6 grade point average in economics.

    5. Second baseman Nick Madrigal has been the catalyst on offense, hitting .389 at the top of the lineup. The 5-7 sophomore has been around the game for a long time. When he and his twin brother were born, their father put baseballs in their cribs at the hospital.

    6. The current Pac-12 membership has won 28 national championships. Next best is the SEC at 11. So it takes heavy lifting to win the league, but the Beavers just clinched the conference, and lead by light years. Actually, seven games through Sunday. They are 24-3 against Pac-12 teams by a combined score of 152-73.

    7. Oregon State has been to five College World Series. The Beavers’ first was 1952. They had to wait 53 years for the next one, but have been four times since 2005 — which says something about Pat Casey’s coaching era.

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    College football's early signing period set for December

     

    BY CHRIS HUMMER

    247Sports

    May 9, 2017

    College football's early signing period, which was officially approved Monday, is expected to occur on the third Wednesday of each December to align with the mid-year junior college transfer window, according to Susan Peal, Director of Governance for the National Letter of Intent program.

    "It is anticipated that the football early signing period will align with the football mid-year (junior college) transfer signing period each year," Peal wrote 247Sports in an email. "So that would start the third Wednesday of December."

    The 72-hour early signing period for high school seniors will start Dec. 20, 2017.

    This early signing period is in addition to college football's standard National Signing Day, which occurs the first Wednesday of February each year. In essence, college football now has two National Signing Days with recruits having the option to sign in December or February.

    The early signing period is one of a number of prominent pieces of legislation the Division I Council approved earlier this year. Others included a 10th full-time assistant, a change in the official visit schedule with an additional window from April to June, which goes into effect April 1, 2018, and changes to the way off-season recruiting-related camps are conducted.

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    Jason Day looks to regain status at Players Championship

    Depending Tournament Players champion Jason Day is attempting to regain his status as the world's No. 1 player. (Photo by Getty Images)
    BY ROB BOLTON

    PGATOUR.COM

    May 9, 2017

    Not only does THE PLAYERS feature the deepest field in the game but it lands in Segment 3 of PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf presented by SERVPRO. With little if any concern about needing more than three starts on any golfer, there's no reason not to select everyone you want. And because of the depth, go ahead and consider one or even two options driven by your heart.

    That seemingly careless approach is mitigated by the promise that straight chalk is likely going to yield disappointment on some level no matter the stakes. This is the rub of TPC Sawgrass. So, you might as well go halfway and take some of that pressure off.

    My roster for the THE PLAYERS (in alphabetical order):
    Rickie Fowler
    Sergio Garcia
    Martin Kaymer
    Hideki Matsuyama
    Rory McIlroy
    Justin Thomas

    Others to consider for each category (in alphabetical order):

    Scoring: Jason Day; Jason Dufner; Adam Hadwin; Brian Harman; Dustin Johnson; Brooks Koepka; Justin Rose; Adam Scott; Jordan Spieth; Jimmy Walker
    Driving: Paul Casey; Graham DeLaet; Jason Dufner; Dustin Johnson; Zach Johnson; Francesco Molinari; Louis Oosthuizen; Jon Rahm; Adam Scott; Kyle Stanley
    Approach: Paul Casey; Jason Dufner; Dustin Johnson; Zach Johnson; Kevin Kisner; Kevin Na; Jon Rahm; Jordan Spieth; Kyle Stanley
    Short: Graham DeLaet; Jason Dufner; Adam Hadwin; Brian Harman; Dustin Johnson; Zach Johnson; Brooks Koepka; Marc Leishman; Graeme McDowell; Jon Rahm; Jordan Spieth

    Power Ranking Wild Card
    Branden Grace … Fourth appearance. Hasn't missed a cut but hasn't cracked a top 40. Like fellow South Africans Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel, gamers can usually turn to Grace in the deepest fields of the season not only for their consistency but also to spell notables who don't present as appealing. Grace's statistics won't wow anyone, but that's the same reason why too many won't be on board.

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    All John Daly wants after victory is a Miller Lite

    John Daly celebrates with a champagne shower after winning the Insperity Invitational near Houston. (Photo by Getty Images)
    BY RYAN BALLENGEE

    Yahoo Sports contributor

    May 8, 2017

    John Daly did all the right things on Sunday at the Insperity Invitational near Houston. He wore American flag pants. He kissed a large, painted Arnold Palmer umbrella logo walking up the final fairway. And, for the first time in more than 13 years, he won on American soil.

    Daly won the 54-hole tournament at The Woodlands Country Club by a shot over Kenny Perry and Tommy Armour III, picking up his first win on PGA Tour Champions, the 50-plus circuit.

    Coming to the final hole, Daly led by two shots after he found the green with his approach to the lengthy par-4 finisher. However, the two-time major champion was 60 feet away. He would go first, but if Perry made his birdie putt from the fringe, a potential second putt could mean the difference between winning and a playoff. Daly coaxed his first putt to 6 feet. When Perry missed his birdie bid, Daly had two putts for the win, which he took.

    Daly was greeted by his wife and showered by his peers with champagne in a perfect scene.

    “For me it’s like, you know, some guys come out here and win right off the bat, get the monkey off their back,” Daly said. “But now I can say I’m a champion on the Champions Tour, which is really cool and hopefully I can keep this confidence going.”

    This is the first win in the United States for Daly since winning the PGA Tour’s 2004 Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines near San Diego. He has won around the world since then, including a mini-tour PGA of Europe event in 2014. But winning on home soil and on PGA Tour Champions, which he was expected to do well before his one-year anniversary of his debut, is a much bigger deal.

    And how will Daly celebrate?

    “I just want a Miller Lite,” Daly said. “That’s all I want.”

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    Time for MLB to declare war on fan conduct

    Baltimore Orioles center fielder Adam Jones.
    BY BUSTER OLNEY

    ESPN Senior Writer

    May 2, 2017

    If you get into a fight at a ballpark, you will be ejected and anybody who goes to a ballpark knows this, because before every game, public address announcers read a warning about fan conduct.

    If you touch a ball in the field of play, you will be ejected. Anybody who goes to the ballpark knows this, because before every game, public address announcers warn fans about this particular cause and effect.

    If you run onto the field, you will be ejected, and will be subject to a trespassing charge. Everybody knows this, because before every game, public address announcers remind fans about what will happen.

    In this way, Major League Baseball and the 30 teams could declare war on the kind of language that was directed at Baltimore Orioles center fielder Adam Jones Monday night. It’s a simple gesture that could make a big difference in protecting players and fans from this kind of garbage.

    As it stands, public address announcers in ballparks reference “abusive” language in their pregame announcement: Abusive language will not be tolerated...

    That warning can be much more explicit, forceful, and powerful: Any fan who aims racist, anti-Semitic and anti-gay words at on-field personnel or fans will be immediately ejected and banned from (fill in the ballpark) permanently.

    It is mind-boggling -- appalling -- that this sort of step would be necessary, but that is where we are and where we have been. Seventy years and 17 days have passed since Jackie Robinson played in his first game for the Brooklyn Dodgers, but generations of players have reported incidents similar to what Jones talked about with USA Today and the Boston Globe after Monday’s game: The N-word and other words or phrases hurled from the stands as weapons of mass degradation.

    Many players relate these episodes off the record, trying to bypass the conflict and treating the racist taunts as something to be endured. But why does anyone need to endure it within the confines of a private business establishment?

    Why should Adam Jones listen to it? Why should any player, any fan have to listen to it without consequences, any more than they would tolerate some idiot running around the field for nine innings, or somebody throwing punches in the center-field bleachers?

    If Major League Baseball and teams reinforce the language of the pregame warnings from the public address announcer, they can help embolden a silent majority -- the tens of thousands of fans at each game who aren’t yelling racist crap at players and who can point out to security the one or two who manage to demean everybody by deploying the N-word.

    The stakes will be raised, the culture shifted: If you say that stuff, security will find you with the help of 40,000 deputized fans prepared to make this the last day you are welcome at this park.

    If you say that stuff, you will be ejected. And everybody will know it.

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    NFL Draft grades: Wait a minute, no one failed?

     

    BY PETE PRISCO

    CBSSports.com

    April 29, 2017

    If you are reading this, you know I like to pick things apart. Drafts, situational coaching and players -- you name it.

    But somehow, as I did the grades for this year's NFL Draft, I had to stop for a second because I think many teams did a good job handling their board.

    I didn't give out one "F" this year. I handed out five "A" grades.

    What is wrong with me? Call me Mr. Softy.

    The five teams that earned "A" grades in my mind were the Arizona Cardinals, Cincinnati Bengals, Green Bay Packers, San Francisco 49ers and -- surprise, surprise -- the Cleveland Browns.

    As chic as it has become to rip the Browns, there is no denying they did a great job with their draft. They had a lot of picks and made the most of those picks, with the only knock being trading back into the first round to take Michigan safety/hybrid player Jabrill Peppers. That was a reach, but they did a nice job the rest of the way.

    They ended up with three first-round picks, landing Texas A&M pass rusher Myles Garrett with the first overall pick, Peppers with the 25th pick and Miami tight end David Njoku with the 29th pick. They moved up to get both Peppers and Njoku thanks to extra draft picks they acquired in recent years.

    If second-round quarterback DeShone Kizer is a hit -- and he is talented -- the Browns will look back on this draft as the one that turned around the franchise. That's how good their draft was this year.

    Maybe all those analytics work after all. Or maybe they finally got somebody who can simply put on the tape and find good football players.

    Now here are the rest of the grades:

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    NBA playoffs: Postseason offers parity and purity

    Golden State's Stephen Curry reacts after making a 3-pointer against Portland in Game 2 of an opening-round series. (Photo by Ezra Shaw /Getty Images)
    BY JOE KNOWLES

    Chicago Tribune

    April 21, 2017

    Parity or purity? Good thing or bad thing? Call it what you like, but the NBA doesn't seem concerned by the fact that No. 1 or No. 2 seeds win an overwhelming majority of the league' titles.

    When someone points out that No. 1 or No. 2 seeds have won 10 of the last 12 championships — the other two were won by No. 3 seeds — the NBA counters by saying that the league has had six different champs in the past seven seasons.

    "Over a 82-game season, the best teams rise to the top," NBA deputy commissioner and chief operating officer Mark Tatum said Thursday at the league's annual meeting with a group of sports editors.

    Based on that logic, it only figures that those teams prevail in the postseason. That's purity.

    "The top teams win," Tatum said, "but it's not the same top teams."

    And there's your parity.

    In the other major sports, top seeds aren't nearly as dominant in the playoffs, and bottom seeds even win an occasional championship. In the NFL, six wild-card teams have won the Super Bowl. Six wild-card teams have won the World Series, including three in a row from 2002-2004. The Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley Cup as a No. 8 seed in 2012.

    A No. 8 seed has never won an NBA title and only one — the Knicks in the strike-shortened 1998-99 season — has ever reached the Finals.

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    OU women's gymnastics seeks third title in four years

    The Oklahoma women's gymnastics team tied for the 2014 NCAA crown with Florida and won the national title outright last season.
    BY JOHN ROHDE

    SoonerSports.com Contributor

    April 13, 2017

    Oklahoma women’s gymnastics coach K.J. Kindler said she could feel the crowd pulling for her team to win at the 2014 NCAA Championships in Birmingham, Ala.

    At that time, only five schools had won national titles since the NCAA first sanctioned the sport in 1982 – Georgia (10), Utah (9), Alabama (6), UCLA (6) and defending champion Florida (1). The up-and-coming Sooners were the team of the moment.

    For the first and only time in NCAA women’s gymnastics, there wound up being national co-champions as OU and Florida finished with identical scores of 198.175 three years ago. The Sooners happily embraced their role as co-champions after the Gators had edged OU for the 2013 NCAA crown by a margin of 0.200 (197.575-197.375).

    Well, times have changed.

    The Sooners were the 2016 national champs all by themselves and will seek back-to-back crowns when the NCAA Championships are held Friday and Saturday at Chaifetz Arena in St. Louis. OU will compete in Semifinal I at noon Friday against No. 4 Utah, No. 5 UCLA, No. 8 Oregon State, No. 9 Denver and No. 13 Washington. The top three finishers from Semifinal I and Semifinal II advance to the NCAA “Super Six” on Saturday night to compete for the national title.

    Fresh off their fifth undefeated regular season under Kindler, the defending champs are this weekend’s No. 1 seed for a multitude of reasons, the most recent of which came April 1 at the NCAA Seattle Regional, where the Sooners posted a nation-high 198.075 in regional competition. OU entered the meet with a program record with a regional qualifying score (RQS) of 198.010.

    OU’s overall excellence this season frequently has been perfection with four gymnasts combining for nine perfect 10.0s. Though only a freshman, Maggie Nichols already owns the school career record with six and scored at least one 10.0 in every event, becoming just the ninth collegiate gymnast to ever do so. Senior McKenzie Wofford and sophomore Nicole Lehrmann each earned a 10.0 on the uneven bars and senior Chayse Capps scored a 10.0 on the balance beam. Six OU gymnasts earned a nation-best 14 regular-season All-America honors this season, with junior AJ Jackson and sophomore Brenna Dowell joining the aforementioned perfectionists. (Dowell scored a 10.0 in 2015 on uneven bars.)

    Seventeen of OU’s scores this season rank in the top 10 in program history.

    Suffice to say, the Sooners no longer are up-and-coming. They have reached the summit and have no intention of descending anytime soon.

    “They have a target on their back,” Kindler said of her team. “People are gunning for them. Everyone roots for the underdog, and that’s not us. Now there’s that expectation and pressure knowing people are gunning for you. We just need to focus on ourselves and not on that.”

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    Updated list of best golfer never to have won a major

    Former Oklahoma State standout Rickie Fowler is still searching for his first major.
    BY GOLF DIGEST

    March 31, 2017

    Ahhh, the everlasting best-golfer-never-to-have-won-a-major debate.

    The 2016 season produced four first-time major champs in Danny Willett, Dustin Johnson, Henrik Stenson and Jimmy Walker.

    As we approach the 2017 Masters, Golf Digest put a new formula to work to determine who are the best current players who haven't hoisted a trophy at one of golf's four biggest events.

    Golf Digest only used results from the past two years, so heartbreak veterans like Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood took a hit. Not that they should mind. If you're on his list for too long, the last thing you want is to be reminded about it.

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    Federer tops Nadal for his 18th Slam title

    Roger Federer Australian Open
    Roger Federer celebrates his fifth Australian Open title. Getty

    MELBOURNE, Australia -- Roger Federer won his 18th Grand Slam title and put some extra distance on the all-time list between himself and Rafael Nadal, the man he beat 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 in a vintage Australian Open final on Sunday night.

    It was the 35-year-old Federer's first major title since Wimbledon in 2012, his first in Australia since 2010, and it reversed the status quo against his nemesis, Nadal.

    Both players were returning from extended layoffs -- Federer for six months after Wimbledon with an injured left knee; Nadal for a couple of months with an injured left wrist -- and were seeded 17th and ninth respectively.

    "It's been a different last six months, I wasn't sure I was going to make it here but here I am -- we made it," Federer said after accepting the trophy from Australian great Rod Laver, who lends his name to the main stadium at Melbourne Park.

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    Serena claims 23rd major title in finals win against Venus

    Serena Williams 2017 Australian Open Winner
    (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)
    AP CBSNEWS

    Jan. 28, 2017

    MELBOURNE, Australia -- Serena Williams has won her record 23rd Grand Slam singles title, and her sister was right there on court to give her a congratulatory hug.

    The all-Williams final - the first at the Australian Open since Serena won the first edition of the family rivalry here in 2003 - went to the younger sibling 6-4, 6-4 on Saturday night.

    With her record seventh Australian title, the 35-year-old Williams moved ahead of Steffi Graf for the most major titles in the Open era. Margaret Court has the all-time record and was also in the crowd for the final at Rod Laver Arena.

    Court won 24 majors, but collected 13 of those before the Open era which began in 1968 after the sport became professional.

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    Venus, Vandeweghe have something to prove

    Venus Williams Breaks Record

     

    USA TODAY SPORTS

    January 24, 2017

     

    MELBOURNE — It’s not often that a sports superstar stays in the game long enough to receive accolades as the oldest to achieve a great milestone.

    At 36 years old, Venus Williams created that scenario for herself on a glorious Tuesday afternoon when she became the oldest women’s player to ever reach the Australian Open semifinals. Just for the record, if 35-year-old sister, Serena, also ventures into the semifinals on Wednesday, she will become the second oldest player to attain Australian Open semifinal status.

    The 13th-seeded Venus Williams moved on in grand style by scoring a 6-4, 7-6 (3) quarterfinal win over 24th-seeded Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia at Melbourne Park. If the fans were impressed, Williams was thrilled, flashing a smile as bright as the Australian summer sun that was shining down on her from above.

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